Head coach Joel Quenneville, the fourth head coach in Avalanche history, is a contributor, of course, to the team's success. He became the coach on July 7, 2004, after eight seasons with the St. Louis Blues where he was the winningest coach in that team's history. He returned to the AVs after starting out his NHL coaching career in Denver as an assistant coach in 1994-1995. He was with the team for two and a half seasons before accepting the head coach position with the Blues. Quenneville played for 13 seasons in the NHL, retiring after the 1991-1992 season.
The team, in its 11th season in Denver, originally played in Canada as the Quebec Nordiques. On July 1, 1995, COMSAT Entertainment Group purchased the Nordiques and brought the team to Colorado. Thirty-seven days after announcing the team was coming here, season ticket sales went through the roof, with over 12,000 sold in less than two months. On August 10, 1995, the team was introduced to the world as the Colorado Avalanche. A little over four years after that, the team left its first home, McNichols Sports Arena, and moved into its new digs, The Pepsi Center, on October 13, 1999, where it currently wows full-house audiences from September through April.
The AVs have the distinction of bringing Denver its first professional sports championship. On June 10, 1996, they won the Stanley Cup, after defeating the Florida Panthers in four straight games. (The NFL's Denver Broncos are the only other professional sports team in Colorado to win a championship, winning the Super Bowl in 1998 and 1999). Unlike fans of the state's other professional teams, AVs fans have had something to cheer about from the time the team came to Colorado, watching as the team has won eight straight division titles and two Stanley Cup Championships (the second came in 2001).
Even though the AVs are in 11th place in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference with a record of 29-28-4 (at press time ), they have made the play-offs for the last 11 seasons, tying for the second-longest current streak in the league. Since the top eight teams in each Conference qualify for the play-offs, the team is still in the hunt for post-season play. After all, they have over a month to improve their record since the last game of the regular season is April 8.
While the team has struggled thus far this season, last year it reached incredible highs, both from a team and individual player standpoint. Last year Colorado ended the season with a record of 43-30-9, placing second in the Northwest Division and seventh in the Western Conference. It was the seventh consecutive year that the team had over 40 victories in a season. The team set or broke many other records, including winning eight consecutive games, equaling the third-longest winning streak in the NHL. They also had a league-leading 10 players participate in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy. One of the most amazing records they set is not unique among Colorado teams, but impressive all the same: they own the NHL record for consecutive sold-out games at 487.
Several Avalanche players had an outstanding season last year. Center Joe Sakic, who is in his 18th NHL season, has been with the Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques his entire career. There is no other active player who has been with the same team for a longer period of time. In addition to breaking numerous records, including becoming the 17th player in NHL history to score 600 career goals on February 15, Sakic has been the team's captain for 15 seasons. Off the ice he is an important figure in the Colorado community. He and his wife, Debbie, are active with the Food Bank of the Rockies and Sakic hosts his own charity golf tournament to benefit the Food Bank every summer in Denver.
Defenseman Karlis Skrastins continued to provide consistency for Colorado last year, playing in all 82 games, his fifth season doing so. At press time, he had played in 494, the longest active streak in the NHL and also the longest among defensemen of 487. He set that record on February 8. This would be an amazing feat in any sport, but even more so for such a physically-demanding, full-contact sport as hockey. He also finished second in the league last season with 207 blocked shots.
Right Wing Marek Svatos, a rookie last season, tied the NHL rookie record with nine game-winning goals, equaling the mark set by Chicago's Steve Larmer in 1982-1983. Other team members who achieved career seasons last year were Patrice Brisebois, Andrew Brunette, Brett Clark, Ian Laperriere, John-Michael Liles, Brett McLean, and Antti Laaksonen.
The AVs advanced to the play-offs last season, defeating the No. 2 seed Dallas Stars in five games in the first round. Even so, they could not advance further, falling to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks with a loss in all four games.
Obviously, the team is a record-breaker and Denver's most consistent professional sports team. But its beauty is so much more than skin-deep. While the team plays with an abundance of heart, off the ice it also has, well, a lot of heart. The team gives back to the Denver community in a variety of ways.
The team, coaches, and staff volunteer countless hours to help those in need. They visit schools and hospitals, host youth hockey clinics, and attend fundraising events that support the Colorado Avalanche Community Fund and Kroenke Sports Charities. Since 1995, the Community Fund has donated over $10 million to the Colorado community.
There are four yearly charity events held by the team. The first is the Colorado Avalanche Charity Golf Classic, held in the fall, at Castle Pines North in Castle Rock. The Face-Off Luncheon, also held in the fall, is a way for fans to meet players, coaches, and management. Chopper's Dinner is the signature fundraising event of the year. Fans can interact with the players and coaches of the AVs, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids, Colorado Mammoth, and Colorado Crush. This year the dinner was held on February 21. The last event of the season is the Better Halves Charity Brunch and Fashion Show, to be held on April 1, when a buffet brunch is served by the players and coaches. All proceeds from the events go to Kronke Sports Charities. For more information about any of these events, call 303-405-1325.
In addition to sponsoring numerous charity events, the team also sponsors many programs, including the Colorado Avalanche Youth Club, the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament, the NHL Street Avalanche, Break the Ice, Avalanche Cares, and Mini Mites. To obtain information on any of these programs, contact the Avalanche at 303-405-1117.
The Colorado Avalanche's regular season runs through April 8.
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